Tag Archive | "Sag Harbor School District"

Toshi Shiga

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Toshi Shiga, at the Sag Harbor Fire Department Carnival at Havens Beach in August, is excited for Kindergarten.

Toshi Shiga, at the Sag Harbor Fire Department Carnival at Havens Beach in August, is excited for Kindergarten. Photo by EJ Shiga.

By Tessa Raebeck

A graduate of Sag Harbor’s prekindergarten program, Toshi Shiga is on the verge of entering kindergarten at Sag Harbor Elementary School on Wednesday, September 3. A lover of the Ninja Turtles, video games and girls, Toshi grew up in Sag Harbor—and some would argue that he’s still growing. He discusses his plans for the first day of school, kindergarten and looming adulthood.

 

Now that you’re going into kindergarten, you’re going to learn to read and write, meet new classmates and be in a new building. What makes you most excited about entering elementary school?

I think I’m going to get a Power Rangers backpack. Or a Ninja Turtles one and a bunch of pencils, pens and crayons to go in it. On the first day, I want to wear my skeleton shirt. I have two, but I’m going to wear the one that glows in the dark.

 

Entering grade school also means a lot of monumental life changes. Anything you’re nervous about?

Making friends. It’s kind of hard, but if I want to be friends with somebody in my class, I would have to ask them if they want to be my friend. Or say please. Maybe I would ask them to play a game with me. If it were a girl, maybe I would kiss her.

 

At the Sag Harbor Elementary School, where you’ll be starting next week, there is a green playground. Are you familiar with it? 

I love the school park because I like the slides. That’s the school I’m going to? Oh my gosh, I’m so jealous. That’s the one we always go to with my friend Antonio; I’m jealous that I’m going to that school with the big, cool playground. I’m jealous of myself.

 

What did you learn in pre-k that’s prepared you for kindergarten?

I learned about insects, tweeters [birds], swings, choo-choo horns [steam engine whistles] and how to make friends. I learned that a bully is someone who’s naughty and not nice. If you meet one, you should tell your teacher they’re being mean to you and try not to play with them.

 

Between the sciences, technology, counting, shapes and all the other things you’ve learned about, what’s your favorite thing to do at school?

Free play.

 

What do you want to learn about in kindergarten?

I want to learn how games are made and about the iPads and computers. If I could read, that would help me make and play video games, so I’m excited to learn reading. Stampy [a video game creator I admire] learned Minecraft and other games in school, so I could do that too. When I visited a class last year [during kindergarten orientation], they had a mailroom. It was a toy mailroom. You could play with the mail and that was really cool.

 

Show-and-Tell is a pivotal part of kindergarten. Have you brainstormed ideas of what you want to bring in to show your teacher and class?

I love show-and-tell. I would bring in my awesome Ninja Turtles thing I have. It’s a comic book. It’s the first comic book I ever had; I loved it.

 

Kindergarten is a big step from pre-k. It’s the first time you’ll be in a school with older kids and more classes like gym, math and science. Do you feel this is a big life transition for you?

Yeah, pre-k is for big boys, but kindergarten is for bigger boys. I’m on level five [years old] and might level up to six in kindergarten. I don’t really feel like I’m five yet—I still feel like I’m four—but when I get to kindergarten I think I’ll feel older. I used to just eat grilled cheese, noodles and white macaroni and cheesy shells for lunch, but now that I’m in kindergarten, I’m going to have a chicken sandwich for lunch. I was too young before, but now that I’m going to be a big boy in kindergarten, I’m going to have a chicken sandwich—and a freeze-pop.

Sag Harbor Pre-K Program Now Under Full Control of District

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By Tessa Raebeck 

The Sag Harbor School District announced late Wednesday that its prekindergarten program, which has operated under SCOPE since its inception in 2010, would move under the full control and supervision of the district starting this year.

“Our board of education and administration believe this is a positive change for the district, and one that will enable us to provide a wonderful pre-k opportunity in Sag Harbor for years to come,” Sag Harbor Elementary School Principal Matt Malone and Assistant Principal Donna Denon said in a letter to families on Wednesday, August 27.

For the past school year of 2013-14, the program had 30 students and the contractual expenses were $80,730. The projected expenses for 2014-15, which will see 25 students in the pre-k, are $70,250.

According to School Business Administrator Jennifer Buscemi, the school attorneys reviewed the current contract with SCOPE in July and recommended the district become a New York State-approved universal prekindergarten Program in order to continue operating under a service contract arrangement with SCOPE.

“This designation would be the only way we could contract out a taxpayer funded prekindergarten program through SCOPE,” Ms. Buscemi said in an email. “This recommendation was based on a shift by the state over time in its policy of contracting out core instruction to outside vendors.”

The district applied for a portion of $340 million in competitive grant funding that became available for a statewide universal full-day prekindergarten program. In August, the New York State Department of Education confirmed that Sag Harbor had not been awarded any of the grant money.

“Since Sag Harbor UFSD did not receive approval for New York State funding, our prekindergarten program could not be considered a universal prekindergarten program,” Ms. Buscemi added.

The elementary school administrators said the district is “committed to maintaining this successful, tuition-free, early childhood learning experience in our district.”

No longer in partnership with SCOPE services, the Sag Harbor pre-k program will begin the 2014-15 school year on Wednesday, September 3, with a “Meet and Greet” for students and parents in the pre-k classroom and the Pierson Middle School. The first full day for students is Thursday, September 4.

“It is with great enthusiasm that we begin the 2014-15 school year knowing the Sag Harbor School District is stronger with our own prekindergarten program adding to a high quality educational experience for all children,” said Mr. Malone and Ms. Denon.

 

New Athletics Director for Sag Harbor a Veteran of Pierson’s Fields

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Social studies teacher Donnelly McGovern was appointed as Sag Harbor's athletics director on Monday, August 25. Photo courtesy Sag Harbor School District.

Social studies teacher Donnelly McGovern was appointed as Sag Harbor’s athletics director on Monday, August 25. Photo courtesy Sag Harbor School District.

By Tessa Raebeck

The Sag Harbor School Board appointed Sag Harbor teacher and coach Donnelly McGovern as the district’s new director of athletics, health, wellness, personnel and supervisor of physical education on Monday, August 25.

Mr. McGovern has taught middle, high school and college-level social studies classes at Pierson Middle/High School for the past 20 years. He has also worked in the past as an assistant principal and as an athletics coach for boys’ varsity soccer.

Mr. McGovern will continue as a teacher while also acting as athletics director part-time. Starting Tuesday, September 2, he will act as an athletics director for 60-percent of his work week and as a social studies teacher for the remaining 40 percent.

He is being paid at his Sag Harbor salary as a teacher, which is $130,466, with an additional stipend of $15,378. Mr. McGovern, who is certified as a school district administrator, will serve a three-year probationary term that ends September 1, 2017.

Mr. McGovern is filling the position left open by Todd Gulluscio’s resignation in May. After less than two years in the position, Mr. Gulluscio accepted an administrative post in the school district on his native Shelter Island. Since longtime athletic director Nick DeCillis left in 2007, the board has struggled to hold onto an athletic director; there have been six ,including Mr. Gulluscio, in the seven years since.

“I am extremely happy to continue working with the students and families at Pierson and Sag Harbor,” Mr. McGovern said in a press release.

“Donnelly McGovern has been an outstanding member of our faculty and we are confident that his level of character and dedication to our students will benefit everyone in our school community,” said Superintendent Katy Graves. “After an extensive search and interview process, we determined that the best candidate for the job was already a member of the Sag Harbor family.”

“The board,” added board president Theresa Samot, “is thrilled to appoint Donnelly McGovern as the district’s athletic director. Mr. McGovern’s leadership skills, as well as his wealth of experience building athletic programs, make him an excellent asset to our district.”

Also on Monday, the school board created the administrative position of director of physical education and appointed Pierson Principal Jeff Nichols to fill that position as part of his regular duties.

“What will be happening is Donnelly McGovern will be doing all the supervising of the K through 12 physical education programs” and make recommendations to Mr. Nichols on anything that has to be reported to the New York State Department of Education, Ms. Graves said Tuesday.

Although Mr. McGovern will be doing all of the supervising of the physical education programs, a person with physical education certification, which Mr. McGovern does not yet have, needs to be responsible for reporting anything to the state. Mr. Nichols volunteered to take over those duties without extra pay.

“So, Donnelly will make recommendations to him and Jeff will do all the reporting to New York State cause he has appropriate certifications,” Ms. Graves explained. “So, it was nice cooperative work on his part to make sure we got the best man on the job.”

Drone Spotted Flying Over Sag Harbor

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An aerial view of Sag Harbor taken by Pierson Middle/High School students with the school's new drone, donated by the Reutershan Educational Trust. Photo courtesy Peter Solow.

An aerial view of Sag Harbor taken by Pierson Middle/High School students with the school’s new drone, donated by the Reutershan Educational Trust. Courtesy Peter Solow.

By Tessa Raebeck 

At the signal from Theo Gray, Isabella di Russa sprinted down Pierson Hill, a streak of pink and red as a long Chinese dragon kite trailed behind her. Darting among a triangle of bright beach umbrellas held by classmates at the bottom of the hill, she weaved the dragon between them.

From Theo’s view at the top of the hill, the colorful umbrella tops were hardly visible, but he had a better vantage point. A drone, hardly noticeable except for the humming of its engine, whirred above Isabella’s head, capturing the scene below.

A small, remote-controlled aircraft with a camera attached to its base, the drone is the latest instrument of Sag Harbor’s student artists. Donated by the Reutershan Educational Trust, a privately funded art program created by Sag Harbor resident and architect Hobart “Hobie” Betts, the drone is being piloted in a weeklong workshop at Pierson High School.

On Wednesday, August 6, five students, Theo, Isabella, Danielle Schoenfeld, Joy Tagliasachhi and Zoe Vatash, two visiting artists, Francine Fleischer and Scott Sandell, both from Sag Harbor, and art teacher Peter Solow experimented with their new tool.

Mr. Sandell manned a remote control that operated the white drone, an alien-like aircraft with four propellers that move simultaneously in different directions. To capture photos and videos, students took turns controlling an iPhone connected simply by Wifi to the drone’s camera.

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Sag Harbor students took photos with their new drone on Pierson Hill on Wednesday, August 6. Photo by Theo Gray.

Unmanned aerial vehicles, commonly known as drones, were until recently used primarily for military operations and by the occasional pioneering photographer. The technology has advanced rapidly in recent years, with the once pricey gadgets (some of which still cost as much as $30,000) now available from vendors like Amazon for less than $75.

As with most new technology, drones are proliferating too fast for laws and regulations to keep up. On Sunday, August 3, Senator Charles Schumer urged the Federal Aviation Association and the U.S. Commerce Department to regulate the use of drones for both commercial and hobby purposes. New York City, the senator said, is the “Wild West for drones,” with multiple instances of the devices crashing into trees, apartment terraces and hovering outside windows reported this summer.

But on Pierson Hill Wednesday, the need was not for regulations nor drone policy, but for a way to master the new technology while also figuring out how to create art that is unique, inspiring and innovative, despite the gadgets’ soaring popularity.

“When people initially started to use computers to make artwork, they didn’t know what to do and everything they did was bad,” said Mr. Sandell, an artist and printmaker, who, like Ms. Fleischer, has worked with Sag Harbor students for years doing site-specific artwork and photography projects through the Reutershan Trust. “But now, people have learned how to use it and control it and software has caught up to the ideas and so, now you can create beautiful things with your computer.”

“So,” he added, “this is just another tool and that’s what’s really important here—taking that experience and putting it into your school of thought, your sensibilities, in terms of what’s possible.”

Pierson's new drone hovers over student Zoe Vatash on Wednesday, August 6. Courtesy Peter Solow.

Pierson’s new drone hovers over student Zoe Vatash on Wednesday, August 6. Courtesy Peter Solow.

“There’s a wow factor to the technology,” added Mr. Solow. “And this is the essential question that we’ve challenged the kids with and the thing that’s really tough—how do you take this technology and make art?”

Now that most people have cell phones with strong camera capabilities, everyone is constantly taking snapshots, Mr. Solow said, “so what’s the difference between a really great photograph and a snapshot? Everybody is going to have drones, what is the difference between what everybody will do with a drone and having some sort of artistic merit to what we’re doing?”

With just three days of drone experimentation under their belt, on Wednesday, the students appeared to have risen to the challenge. They had dozens of photographs and videos, including aerial shots of Sag Harbor Village with the harbor and North Haven in the distance, videos looking down on Zoe doing cartwheels and Isabella dribbling a soccer ball, and even a video of the drone crashing into a tree.

The drone, Theo said, allows the young artists to “do things that we really can’t do with a normal camera, with angles and views…it’s interesting just to see what we can do with photography.”

In one video, Zoe worked the camera while Danielle, Isabella, Joy and Theo rolled down the hill.

In a “self-portrait,” as Mr. Solow called it, the drone captured its own shadow reflected on the hill, a slightly eerie shot for anyone familiar with movies featuring rebellious robots.

“It’s awesome,” said Ms. Fleischer, a portrait, landscape and fine art photographer, “because you can use the ground as your canvas. So, with that in mind, it just gives you another perspective.”

A video taken in the Pierson gymnasium looks directly down onto the lines of the basketball court, with Mr. Solow and the students standing around a circle juggling and passing a soccer ball. As the drone hovers, figures move in and out of the shot. As Theo does a header, the ball comes dangerously close to the camera.

Pierson student Theo Gray and visiting artist Scott Sandell have a flight consultation on Wednesday, August 6. Photo by Peter Solow.

Pierson student Theo Gray and visiting artist Scott Sandell have a flight consultation on Wednesday, August 6. Photo by Peter Solow.

Filming indoors poses an additional challenge, as “the drone is so powerful that the propellers create a great deal of turbulence,” said Mr. Sandell. “When you’re inside, the turbulence bounces off the walls and comes back at the drone so you create a wind shear.”

When inside, the drone can be knocked around by the reflection of its own turbulence and harder to control. Outside, a gust of wind or an ill-advised bird could send it whirring away.

Despite the turbulence, the camera is generally still and focused, which is a good thing, as the students’ ideas of how to push the boundaries—and thus create innovative art—keep coming.

While brainstorming for new means of experimentation with the drone, Zoe asked, “Could we fill water balloons with paint and drop them from it?” No one denied the request.

 

More photos taken with Sag Harbor’s new drone:

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Sag Harbor School District Hires New School Business Administrator

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Jennifer Buscemi will be the new School Business Administrator for Sag Harbor.

Jennifer Buscemi is the new School Business Administrator for Sag Harbor.

By Tessa Raebeck

The Sag Harbor School District on Monday, July 28, appointed a new school business administrator to fill the position left open by John O’Keefe’s departure earlier this month.

The new administrator, Jennifer Buscemi, will start work on Monday, August 4, and serve a three-year probationary term ending August 3, 2017.

“I am very excited to get started in my new role,” Ms. Buscemi said in an email Wednesday, July 30.

Ms. Buscemi, who lives in Brentwood, is leaving her post as executive director for finance and operations at the West Babylon School District. She has held that position since November 1, 2011.

“I feel that my background and work experience will enable me to support the educational and fiscal goals of the superintendent and the board of education,” she continued. “I will work hard to maintain all the wonderful programs the district currently offers, while also working to expand educational opportunities for all students. In the coming weeks, I look forward to meeting and working in partnership with my new colleagues and all the members of the Sag Harbor community.”

Mr. O’Keefe started as business administrator in 2012 and left the district on July 16 for a position as assistant superintendent for business and operations in the West Hempstead School District.

At Monday’s board meeting, school board member David Diskin congratulated the superintendent and those involved in hiring Ms. Buscemi.

“That’s a very difficult thing to walk into and to do it so quickly and successfully—great,” Mr. Diskin said to Ms. Graves, who started in the district this month.

“This was someone with exceptional skills,” Chris Tice, vice president of the school board, said of Ms. Buscemi, adding that she “comes with a wealth of fabulous experience.”

“We’re very fortunate,” agreed board president Theresa Samot.

Also at Monday’s meeting, Ms. Graves outlined her entry plan, saying her focus, especially in the beginning months, would be on listening to and learning from all the various stakeholders in the community.

In her decision making, Ms. Graves said she simply asks herself, “What is best for students, fair for adults and what the community can sustain?”

Ms. Graves outlined a timeline starting in July 2014 that will begin collecting “evidence and documentation of the district’s strengths, challenges and needs.”

She said the remainder of the summer would be spent conducting interviews, reviewing documents and implementing surveys to learn more about her new district.

Ms. Graves also presented a timeline of interviews she hopes to conduct with a number of groups and individuals across the community, ranging from bus drivers and student leaders to the Sag Harbor Chamber of Commerce and local real estate agents.

During October, with the help of the school board, she will analyze that data and prepare a report to reflect the findings, then share that report and solicit feedback from administrators, faculty and staff, and school committees.

By mid-November, Ms. Graves said she will have created a work action plan for the year with “vision, goals, objectives and measurement indicators,” and present a draft of that plan to the district’s stakeholders.

The next meeting of the board of education will be held Monday, August 18, in the Pierson library.

In Wake of Resignation, Sag Harbor School Board Will Appoint New Member

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A student navigates the halls of Pierson High School. Photo by Michael Heller.

A student navigates the halls of Pierson High School. Photo by Michael Heller.

By Tessa Raebeck

Following the resignation of board member Daniel Hartnett two weeks ago because he is moving out of the district, the Sag Harbor Board of Education decided on Monday, July 28, that it would interview candidates for the newly vacant seat on the board.

The board discussed three options at Monday’s business meeting: Having a full interim election to allow the community to vote for the candidate; not filling the empty seat, which would allow the New York State Education Commissioner Roger King to fill the seat for the board if he so chooses; and appointing a candidate of its own choosing who would serve until May 18, 2015.

Citing similar situations in the past, board president Theresa Samot recommended the board interview potential candidates and choose a new member.

Ms. Samot said the first option of holding an interim election is “a costly one,” adding, “I don’t think we want to leave it open to the commissioner to appoint someone who may not be familiar with the workings of the board.”

The board’s vice president, Chris Tice, said most districts on Long Island that are currently facing “this challenge or opportunity” seem to opt for the board appointing a new member. She added that was the decision recently made by the East Hampton School District, which saw its president Patricia Hope resign this month.

“Unless it’s a month before an election… there’s almost no districts now that are spending the money to have elections and few districts are leaving it open,” Ms. Tice said.

Board member David Diskin said he was torn over the decision. He said although his heart always feels an election is the best choice, the financial and legal implications make him think it’s the wisest choice to fill the position as a board.

“I’ll concede to the will of the board on that one,” Mr. Diskin said.

“I’m for the appointment,” said school board member Sandi Kruel. “The election, I think, is just too costly and time-consuming. The only time I think you should leave a board position open is if there’s a very short period of time before the next election.”

The next scheduled school board election will not be held until late May.

Ms. Kruel added that this will be her seventh appointment in reaction to a resignation during her tenure as a board member, “so that’s the way it’s been done since I’ve been on the board so far.”

The board agreed unanimously to appoint its next member and expressed the hope that as many applicants as possible will come forward. Board members discussed ways to get the word out to all members of the community; even those who are outside the “school family” and do not regularly use social media.

“I would love to see a ton of applicants,” Mr. Diskin said. “I don’t want to choose between a handful of people because people didn’t know about it.”

During public input, former board member Mary Anne Miller expressed her support of a public vote.

“We should try very hard to let the public decide the board members,” said Ms. Miller, adding she believes a lot of community members would support a vote despite the cost.

She said while the annual 14-hour election in May costs upward of $7,000, the district could consider holding an election on a smaller scale.

In an email Tuesday, July 29, Ms. Miller said the district could keep the polls open less than 14 hours, use one machine, which would cost $550 to rent, as opposed to three, or consider using paper ballots to save on the machine rental altogether.

Ms. Miller said in the September vote held on behalf of the John Jermain Memorial Library, polls are open 10 hours, only two machines are rented and the vote does not include newsletters and associated postage fees. According to estimates given by former Superintendent Dr. John Gratto in 2012, a special election similar to the library vote would cost an estimated $3,841, as opposed to the $7,655 he estimated for a standard, larger vote.

Ms. Miller’s remarks were made after the decision to move forward with interviews had already been made by the board.

The deadline to submit applications to be the newest member of the Sag Harbor school board is Monday, August 11. The BOE is hopeful it will have a candidate by the next scheduled board meeting, Monday, August 18.

Click here to access the school district’s release on the position.

Sag Harbor School District Board of Education Position Now Available

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The following was released by the Sag Harbor School District on Wednesday, July 30:

The Sag Harbor Board of Education is seeking a person to fill a Board of Education seat that recently became vacant. If you wish to apply for this Board of Education position, please email a letter expressing your interest in and qualifications for the position to Mary Adamczyk, the Board of Education Clerk, at madamczyk@sagharborschools.org by Monday, August 11th.  The Board will review letters from interested applicants. Interviews for applicants will be held on August 13 or 14. The chosen candidate is expected to be appointed to fill the open position at the August 18, 2014 Board of Education meeting.

Board of Education members serve on a voluntary basis to provide governance to the school district. The school board is a corporate body that oversees and manages a public school district’s affairs, personnel, and properties. As you consider whether or not you would like to apply for this important responsibility, please first read about the characteristics of effective (and ineffective) school boards and assess your willingness and desire to be part of a highly effective Board of Education by clicking here.

Board of Education meetings are typically held from 6 to 9:30 p.m. on two Mondays each month. You will serve on several Board committees and liaisons to outside organizations that would involve additional time.

By agreeing to be appointed to this open board seat, you would fill the position until May 18, 2015.  If you wanted to fill the remainder of the open term, which ends on June 30, 2016, you would need to run for that position at the election held on May 19, 2015, along with any other candidates running.

If you have questions about the position please contact Theresa Samot, President of the Board of Education at tsamot@sagharborschools.org or Katy Graves, Superintendent of Schools at kgraves@sagharborschools.org.

Update: Sag Harbor School Board Member Daniel Hartnett Resigns

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Sag Harbor School Board member Daniel Hartnett resigned Monday.

Sag Harbor School Board member Daniel Hartnett resigned Monday.

Originally published July 14, 2014 8:47 p.m.

By Tessa Raebeck 

Daniel Hartnett resigned from the Sag Harbor School District Board of Education Monday, July 14, after selling his house in the district two weeks ago.

Elected in May 2013, Mr. Hartnett entered the second year of his three-year term this month. He also served two terms on the board from 2005 to 2011.

Mr. Hartnett, a social worker and counselor at East Hampton High School, was the frontrunner in the school board in 2013, receiving the most votes from among a group of six candidates. The only educator on the board, he is one of its most vocal members.

“I have come tonight to very painfully, with enormous regret, ask you to accept my resignation from the board of education,” Mr. Hartnett told the board at Monday’s meeting. “I sold my house two weeks ago and have been unable to find affordable or appropriate housing in the district that would allow me to stay on the board. So, I’ve moved out of the district. I’ve signed a lease and need to resign.”

After listing his house in March, Mr. Hartnett said the sale went through much faster than he had anticipated. He was unable to find suitable housing in Sag Harbor and has rented a house in Springs. New York State Law requires all school board members to live in the district and the duration of Mr. Hartnett’s lease in Springs required that he resign.

While waiting for Monday’s meeting to start, Mr. Hartnett told several parents he was saddened by his unplanned resignation and had been looking forward to working with the district’s new superintendent, Katy Graves, who he helped to recruit.

“There’s not a lot of joy being on the school board,” Mr. Hartnett said from the podium during public input Monday. “Except for the fact that you know you’re doing something really amazing for the children of the district.”

“I would walk out of the house at night and say, ‘I’m going out tonight for you and if I can bring some of your friends with me, I will.’ And that’s really what it’s about: it’s about doing what’s best for the kids and it has been a privilege for me to bring whatever knowledge and experience I have to this table,” he added.

Mr. Hartnett thanked his fellow school board members and the administrators, superintendents and principals he has worked with “for the collegial relationships and collaboration that we’ve shared together on behalf of the children of this district” and thanked the community for giving him the opportunity to serve.

Mr. Hartnett also offered his services and said he was more than willing to continue to help and serve in whatever way he could. His son, who lives part-time with his mother in Sag Harbor, will continue to attend school in the district.

Chris Tice, vice president of the board, thanked Mr. Harnett for giving the board a heads-up when he first realized he might have to resign. As a real estate agent, she said she understood the challenge of finding suitable year-round housing in Sag Harbor. Ms. Tice said the board consulted with school attorney Thomas Volz to see if there was any way Mr. Hartnett could legally remain on the board “because everyone on the board was hoping you could stay on the board because you’re such an asset.”

Board President Theresa Samot recalled being first elected to the board the same year as Mr. Hartnett in 2005.

“We went through many great times and, as you said, some difficult times, and it made it much easier for me knowing that you were a colleague and that we were there working through these issues together,” she said.

“The great thing about a board,” said David Diskin, who was elected last year alongside Mr. Hartnett, “is that you have diversity of opinion and diversity of expertise and you add a huge piece of both of those to us and it’s going to be tough not having you there to share your mind.”

“I’m going to miss you as my friend,” said Sandi Kruel, a board member who has known Mr. Hartnett personally for many years. “But I have to tell you that having an educator on the board with such immense passion for children was just amazing to have next to me.”

“I’ve served with you quite often as well,” added board member Susan Kinsella, “and I have to say—although I don’t always agree with you—your knowledge as an administrator, a social worker, your willingness to advocate for the children of this district and for improvements in education—it’s going to be sorely missed, because you come with a welcomed knowledge that’s going to be hard to replace.”

In the wake of Mr. Hartnett’s resignation, the school board has several options: It can appoint someone immediately to fill the remainder of Mr. Hartnett’s term, which expires June 30, 2016; it can appoint someone to fill the position for this school year until the elections in May 2015; it can hold a special election for a new board member immediately; or it can continue with just six board members until the elections in May 2015. No decision was made Monday.

Pierson Parents and School at Odds Over Recognizing Sag Harbor’s Salutatorians

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A student navigates the halls of Pierson High School. Photo by Michael Heller.

A student navigates the halls of Pierson High School. Photo by Michael Heller.

By Tessa Raebeck

The parents of a Pierson High School senior say their daughter was unjustly denied recognition for her academic performance and that the Sag Harbor School District is doing nothing about it.

Kristin and Paul Davey maintain their daughter deserves to be recognized as a co-salutatorian of the graduating class of 2014 because the district uses faulty guidelines and does not have a clear policy for how valedictorians and salutatorians are named.

Pierson administrators, however, say the district is using the same guidelines it has used for decades and, although they may enact a board-level policy in the future, that change will not happen in the days leading up to graduation.

After taking the complaints to Facebook, Kristin Davey said in a phone interview Wednesday, June 25, that her daughter was in third place by 7/100ths of a point when the grade point average rankings were calculated in January. When the grades were recalculated in April, Ms. Davey said, her daughter had pulled into second by a full point.

Dr. Paul Davey in a statement to the board on June 18 said their daughter was then “invited by State Assemblyman Fred Thiele’s office to a luncheon honoring Long Island’s valedictorians and salutatorians.”

Ms. Davey said on Wednesday, June 25, that several days after they received the invitation, Pierson Principal Jeff Nichols informed her that her daughter had been invited in error.

She was told, she said, that “they were not using those grades, they were using the grades in January, as has been their tradition, and that [my daughter] was not the salutatorian.”

“We asked several times for the school to recognize [our daughter] as co-salutatorian and not to take anything away from the other student, but to recognize them both,” she said.

“I feel that we were misled and it’s gotten kind of worse from there,” said Ms. Davey, adding that she has sent many letters and made many phone calls to administrators that have gone unanswered.

“We’ve had very, very clear guidelines with regard to that, my understanding is certainly for the 17 years I’ve been here and for decades preceding that,” Mr. Nichols said when the issue was brought up at the board’s meeting on Tuesday, June 24.

The guidelines are on page 17 of the student handbook, which is given to every student and available on the district website.

Mr. Nichols read from the policy Tuesday, which states: “To validate who has earned the highest (valedictorian) and the second highest (salutatorian) ranks in a graduating class, students’ grades are re-averaged at the end of the first semester of the year in which the class graduates. Such determination is final and no adjustment thereafter will take place.”

In a phone conversation Wednesday, June 25, Dr. Carl Bonuso, interim superintendent for the district, said, “There was something where I believe some temporary word was passed along that [Ms. Davey’s] daughter was ranked second in the class, but when we checked it was an error.”

“While at the time of the ranking—that is at the end of the seventh semester in the middle of the year that they’re graduating, which is what Jeff read last night [at the school board meeting]—in fact, it was not her daughter,” he said.

“I’d rather not discuss a specific case or a specific child,” he added, “so I can only say that Mr. Nichols clarified it as much as possible additionally last night and no further comment.”

In his statement read on June 18, Dr. Davey questioned the lack of “a formal policy” and asked the board to vote that evening to recognize co-salutatorians for the class of 2014.

“The only thing they keep reciting in this refusal is traditionally they have never done that before and I don’t find that a good enough answer,” Ms. Davey said.

“Because they are lacking this formal policy,” she said, “I just don’t understand why they will not recognize both students…I just really hope that moving forward, the district writes a clear, comprehensive and specific policy so this does not happen in the future to any student graduating from Pierson. I will say that [my daughter] is beyond devastated that her school will not recognize her academic achievement.”

“There has been some discussion about having a more formal policy, there are districts that have board-level policies on it,” BOE Vice President Chris Tice said. “I would suggest at a future board meeting, we discuss whether we want to have that sort of policy on it.”

Later Start Times?

In other school board news, the board agreed to appoint a task force to examine the plausibility of starting school at later times, a move that is gaining traction across the country.

“There’s research that has come out that says if you could do one thing to help your kids do better in school—one thing—it would be to get our kids to school later,” said Ms. Tice.

Board member Susan Kinsella also brought up the idea of allowing varsity athletes to have study hall instead of gym class while in season.

“They certainly don’t need the gym class if they’re playing a varsity sport. Let them have that time to do homework,” she said.

“I think this makes a lot of sense,” agreed Ms. Tice, adding the district could see more athletes participating in International Baccalaureate (IB) and other challenging classes “if they knew they’d have more time to get the work done.”

The board will start its trial of videotaping meetings in July. The first meeting of the month will be taped but not broadcast to figure out some sound and technical kinks and the second meeting will be fully broadcast on LTV and SEA-TV.

Sag Harbor School District Says Goodbye to Three Chief Administrators

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School Business Administrator John O'Keefe, who will leave the district this summer, at the Board of Education meeting Tuesday, June 24. Photo by Tessa Raebeck

School Business Administrator John O’Keefe, who will leave the district this summer, at the Board of Education meeting Tuesday, June 24. Photo by Tessa Raebeck

By Tessa Raebeck

Although school’s out for summer, the Sag Harbor Board of Education will have its hands full with interviewing and hiring new personnel in time for students’ return in September.

In addition to the seven retiring members of the faculty, six of whom have positions that will be filled (one special education teaching position was abolished), interim Superintendent Dr. Carl Bonuso, business administrator John O’Keefe, and Todd Gulluscio, director of Athletics, Physical Education, Health, Wellness and Personnel, are leaving the district.

The board on Tuesday, June 24, accepted the resignations of Mr. O’Keefe and Mr. Gulluscio and appointed Dr. Bonuso as temporary assistant to the district’s new superintendent Katy Graves.

Dr. Bonuso will help Ms. Graves settle into her new position for 14 days between July 1 and July 31. He is being paid at a daily rate of $950 for a total of $13,300.

At Tuesday’s board meeting, community member and frequent meeting attendee Elena Loreto questioned the appointment of Dr. Bonuso to the temporary position.

“When you hired Katy Graves, everyone was high on her,” Ms. Loreto told the board. “We were ecstatic we found someone who was so neat, she was even better than sliced bread or ballpoint pens—then why does she need a mentor?”

“Carl, I love you, but we gotta say goodbye,” she added. “Katy is fully capable. Don’t spend the money.”

“Katy requested that Carl remain for some transition planning with her,” replied Theresa Samot, president of the school board. “We did, through our attorney, do a review of best practices, and he reported to us that it’s not unusual when a superintendent is coming from out of the district or out of the immediate area to actually have a transition for them.”

The board pointed to the extent of issues the new superintendent will have to deal with immediately, including capital projects from the bond referendum, for which the bulk of construction will start this summer, and the hiring of new personnel in many important positions. Ms. Samot added that the district budgeted for the transition in the 2014-15 budget.

“The board really carefully considered this issue,” said member David Diskin. “The request is really coming from Ms. Graves. This is a need that she feels is critical to make a great transition.”

“There’s just a lot of stuff happening,” added board member Daniel Hartnett, “and it just kind of struck me as Katy spoke that the reason that she asked for some transition is because she’s experienced…that I think is a sign of professionalism and I think it’s money well spent on our part.”

The board also recognized the contributions of Dr. Bonuso, Mr. O’Keefe and Mr. Gulluscio during their time in the district, as well as Mary Anne Miller, a school board member of six years who chose not to pursue another term.

“Mary Anne leads with her heart,” said Mr. Hartnett. “Mary Anne leads with her heart, but thank goodness, she’s got a great brain to follow. She’s a passionate advocate for public education.”

“I don’t know of many people that spend as much time focused on education that actually aren’t being paid to do so,” added Chris Tice, vice president of the board.

“Her willingness to be unafraid to turn over rocks and to challenge things and ask questions is unique,” said Mr. Diskin.

Dr. Bonuso initially came on as an interim for a few months, but was quickly asked to stay for longer and ultimately served two full years as superintendent.

“He’s been an amazing force not only in the school, but in the community,” said Ms. Samot.

“I think that you brought a new level of heart to this school family,” added Ms. Tice. “That is going to be your legacy when you leave, so thank you for that.”

“I have to say,” added Sandi Kruel, a board member, “that the senior class, you know every one of them by name, how to pronounce their last name…and when you showed up at [the New York State baseball finals] the seniors were like, ‘He’s the man,” and that’s all I can say, you the man. So thank you for being a part of so many of our students’ lives.”

Acknowledging the “100 people to [my] left and right,” Dr. Bonuso spoke of his love for Sag Harbor.

“I’ve been in the business a long time—maybe close to 40 years—I thought I was going to come by for a few months, turns out a couple years because I fell in love with the place and the projects we were working with,” he said, adding that he came out of retirement because, “I think God whispered in my ear, ‘Before you go, you have to see this place.’ It’s just a remarkable experience.”

Mr. O’Keefe has been the business administrator since 2012. He will be leaving the district for a position as assistant Superintendent for Business and Operations in the West Hempstead School District. His resignation is effective July 16. Mr. O’Keefe was instrumental in passing the bond referendum last fall and in getting the district’s Moody’s bond rating upgraded this spring.

“You’ve put us in the best financial shape we’ve been in since I’ve been in the district,” Ms. Kruel said to Mr. O’Keefe.

Mr. Gulluscio’s term ends June 30. A native of Shelter Island, he will be returning home to serve as director of Physical Education and District Operations in that district, where his wife also works. During his time in Sag Harbor, he oversaw several trips to state championship for the Pierson Whalers.

“You would be hard-pressed to ever find anybody as good at what they do than the two gentlemen who are in the room right now,” said Dr. Bonuso, adding, “It’s been a privilege to have them at the left and right side these past couple years.”

“You both leave the district in much better shape than when you got here, so thank you,” added Ms. Tice.